Gerrard meets Parry and Benitez

A busy day at Melwood and Anfield today as the press hovered like vultures waiting for Liverpool to announce the departure of Steven Gerrard. Reports over the last week or so came to a head this morning with claims that Steven Gerrard had been arguing on Saturday with Rafael Benitez and that he wasn’t going to talk any more. Last week’s stories started in Spanish paper "As" and reported Gerrard as telling Benitez he was tempted by a move to Spain and Real Madrid.

More updates are filtering through from unofficial channels as to where these stories have all originated. The stories in today’s press did come from SFX it seems. Not from Gerrard’s actual agent Struan Marshall though, but allegedly from other senior members of staff at the agency. 

The reports in last week’s Spanish press are alleged to have come from Real Madrid, who are moving as they often do to unsettle players through the press.

The delay, albeit a very short one, has come from Rick Parry assuming that there was no need to rush into the deal as Gerrard wanted to stay. Gerrard has privately made it very clear that he does want to stay.

The management at SFX seem to be on their own agenda. They want Gerrard to move away from Anfield so that they can get higher commission. Last year it was a move to Chelsea, this year it’s a move to Madrid.

Last week’s stories were "leaked" by Madrid. Stories that claimed Gerrard wanted to leave. Whether SFX had any dealings with this story is unknown, but they have since used it to their advantage, by saying that Liverpool had planted the stories to make Gerrard unpopular.  They even claimed that Benitez had leaked the story – something which has made Benitez extremely angry as he denies doing this.

Parry and Benitez have been meeting with Gerrard this afternoon, in an attempt to explain their side to the captain. Hopefully they’ll be able to do this without members of SFX present. We are told that the "bust-up" on Saturday did not happen – it was invented by SFX. Liverpool are willing to meet his contract demands. There’s been a major misunderstanding between the two sides, with the agency in the middle trying to turn Gerrard’s head. Again.

From what we have been told SFX, Chelsea and Real Madrid have all been involved in leaking stories in an attempt to engineer matters to their own advantage. There’s even allegations that some of this may have been bending UEFA and FIFA rules, if not breaking them.

Struan Marshall also handles Jamie Carragher, but Carragher is not likely to leave Anfield. He’s trusted by Gerrard, but Gerrard will no doubt question this in light of the recent events. Gerrard is reportedly extremely upset and pressured, as people he trusts are all contradicting each other. He needs to take stock of what is happening and work out who he should trust. If Struan Marshall is an innocent party in this – and from what we’ve been told he isn’t responsible for the manipulation of the media – then he needs to get to the bottom of what’s happened internally within SFX to ensure Gerrard is now told the truth.

Liverpool’s financial problems are still there but are not playing any part in these problems surrounding Steven Gerrard. 
Continue reading Gerrard meets Parry and Benitez

Four more games televised – on pay per view

A further four Liverpool fixtures have been confirmed as being televised for the new season – all on pay-per-view channel Prem Plus.

The first televised match will see newly-signed Bolo Zenden return to play against his former club Middlesborough at the Riverside, on the opening day of the season. The game kicks off at 5.15 on Saturday 13th August.

One team to do the double over Liverpool last season were Birmingham City, and this years clash at St Andrews will be televised, with a 12.45 kick off on Saturday 24th September.

Aston Villa will host Liverpool on November 5th in another pay-per-view fixture and again kick-off is at 12.45.

Finally, on Boxing Day, Liverpool’s game against Newcastle at Anfield will be televised, as Graham Sounness returns to the Reds ground. That game kicks off at 3pm.

These televised fixtures are in addition to those announced earlier, against Chelsea and Manchester United.

Continue reading Four more games televised – on pay per view

Four new faces for Reds and two or three more to come

As well as unveiling Dutch international midfielder Bolo Zenden as a new Liverpool player today, Rafael Benitez took the opportunity to point out that he was just one of four players signed today – and that there are two or three more still to come this week.

Zenden joined from Middlesborough on a free transfer and may make his first appearance in a Liverpool shirt this weekend at Wrexham for Liverpool’s opening pre-season fixture.

The manager also revealed that he’s signed, as expected, goalkeeper Jose Reina from Villareal. Also on Liverpool’s books now is Chilean international winger Mark Gonzales and a young right back, Antonio Barragan who has signed from Sevilla.
 
Rafa said that: "We have today introduced Bolo Zenden as a Liverpool player but we have also signed Jose Reina, the best goalkeeper in Spain, Mark Gonzales, the best player in Chile and Antonio Barragan." Barragan is likely to start his Anfield career in the reserves as he is nurtured by Rafa’s coaching staff.
 
As if four players wasn’t enough, Benitez also revealed: "We will be signing two or three more players this week." Strong rumours that Luis Figo could be one of those won’t go away, although again there are stories about the players wage demands being higher than Liverpool are prepared to meet.

Zenden was the first of the players to be revealed to the press, with the others expected later today or later this week. The former Barcelona player said: "I am absolutely delighted to be signing for Liverpool. When a club like this comes in for you then you don’t need asking twice."

Zenden is well aware of the work of manager Benitez, but said all the right things about what he thinks of the Anfield club and their supporters: "Rafa Benitez was a big influence in me coming here but the biggest influence was Liverpool FC as a name and its magnificent fans."

Zenden looks back as fondly as the rest of us on that day in May when Liverpool became European Champions, as he recalls: "I watched the Champions League final in a hotel and the thing that stuck in my mind was at half time when we were 3-0 down and all you could hear were our fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone." Notice he said "we" and "our". The open-top bus parade thrilled him too: "I saw the scenes from the parade of the city and they were absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait to play my first game in a Liverpool shirt."

It’s unfortunate for Zenden that these words may go unheard on a day when the headlines have been hijacked by stories about another Reds midfielder.

Continue reading Four new faces for Reds and two or three more to come

Benitez: I want Gerrard to stay and succeed me as boss

Unless he was telling lies (and don’t be surprised to if claims are made that he is), Rafa Benitez could not have been clearer in stating that he wants Steven Gerrard to stay. At a press conference he said: "I can assure our fans that we want Steven Gerrard to stay with us for the rest of his career."
 
Benitez said: "If I renew my deal with Liverpool in four or five years and when I do I would like Stevie to be my next coach, assistant manager and maybe even the next manager after me. He can even have the chief scout position if he wants it."
 
Continuing to make it clear that he doesn’t want to lose the captain, he said: "I want him to stay with the club. We are trying to build a better team and a better squad and I want Stevie to be a major part of that."
 
He also said that he has tried to get Gerrard to sign a new deal on three occasions. "Last season I tried to get Stevie to sign a new deal three times. On each occasion he said wait, so we waited." A clear reference to the patience shown by Liverpool that seems not to have been matched by SFX, Gerrard’s representatives.
 
Before revealing the names of FOUR new players signed today, Benitez said: "This year we want to win more trophies and that is why we are improving our squad with new signings."

It’s not just what Benitez said at the conference that was impressive, it was the way he said it. I think most people watching the conference would agree that Benitez was sincere. If Gerrard leaves it is certainly not because of Rafael Benitez.

* The four new signings are: Bolo Zenden, Jose Reina, Mark Gonazeles, and Antonio Barragan. More to follow.

Continue reading Benitez: I want Gerrard to stay and succeed me as boss

SFX claim Gerrard won’t sign a new deal

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Gerrard’s agent Struan Marshall of SFX told Sky Sports News that as far as he’s concerned, Gerrard is unlikely to be signing a new deal. He said: "Talks with Liverpool have stalled over a new contract for Steven Gerrard and are unlikely to be reopened." Off the record Marshall has been claiming that Liverpool haven’t even made an offer to Gerrard.

The agency claims that Liverpool have been trying to engineer Gerrard’s departure, something denied by the Reds.

When Gerrard arrived at Melwood this morning he met up again with Rafael Benitez and also Chief Executive Rick Parry. On his way to Melwood Rick Parry told the Liverpool Echo that he found these stories to be baffling. He said: "Rafa wants Stevie to stay and couldn’t have made it any clearer. We still hope this situation is repairable. We’re completely surprised by the reports this morning having made it clear since January we wanted to talk to Steven about a new contract. For anyone to make an issue of a delay of just a few days makes no sense. When we met on Wednesday things were fine."

It’s obvious that the comments from Parry are aimed at SFX – they are the ones publically complaining about a delay of a few days, ironic when their actions last summer in arranging a move to Chelsea for Gerrard have caused a year of uncertainty. This attempt to move the player by SFX took place when Gerrard still had three years left to go on his contract, and he’s still got two more  left. Parry continued: "We have wanted to keep Steven all along. There’s never been any suggestion we wanted to sell him."

Gerrard’s agents have tried to link the alleged problems to money, saying Liverpool couldn’t afford the new contract for Gerrard. Parry denied this: "Money is not an issue. There are no financial concerns regarding Steven’s contract, so any suggestion to the contrary is wrong."

Privately, Rafael Benitez, is angry that he is being accused of trying to engineer a move away from Liverpool for the player. He did talk to Gerrard on Saturday, but is angry that stories claim he had a "furious row".

SFX have no doubt been in discussions with other clubs, including Chelsea and Real Madrid, in an attempt to get a deal for Gerrard underway in case it’s needed.

Meanwhile Bolo Zenden spoke at the press conference that officially unveiled him as a Reds player by pointing out that last season he spent a lot of the time playing in central midfield for Middlesborough going forward to try and score goals.

Continue reading SFX claim Gerrard won’t sign a new deal

First set of Sky live games announced

Sky Sports have today released their first set of fixture changes to the Premiership and this season Liverpool have only been selected twice by Sky – so far.

Both matches to be shown by Sky are home games for the Reds. First up is the game against Manchester United. Always a favourite for Sky, the game will now be played on Sunday September 18th, with a kick-off at 12 noon. Police advice has no doubt played a part in the kick-off time.

The second game scheduled by Sky is the game against the club that made most enemies in the last 12 months – Chelsea. When Liverpool beat them in the Champions League we received numerous messages of support and congratulations – more even than for the final itself – from fans of many clubs. Chelsea’s visit to Anfield will now be on Sunday 2nd October, with a 4pm kick-off.

There won’t be a total lack of action for TV viewers in the UK though – all being well. Liverpool’s first two legs in the Champions League defence will be televised by ITV – either on ITV1 or ITV2. If Liverpool progress into the second and third qualifying rounds then the home games will also be shown on one of the ITV channels. ITV, who own part of Liverpool from when they bought shares as Granada some years ago, purchased an option from Liverpool to show the other home legs.

Premiership Pay-Per-View games have yet to be announced. Coverage overseas will continue to be better than in the UK, where Saturday matches can be televised live.
Continue reading First set of Sky live games announced

Benitez needs Gerrard cash for new players

More and more about Steven Gerrard will hit the back pages over the coming days. A lot of it will be based on what is said off the record by various parties. This will be added to by speculation.

Last week’s Spanish press reported that Gerrard had told Rafa Benitez that he was "tempted" by a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid. After telling the world on May 25th that he would find it hard to leave Anfield after the glory of Istanbul, the captain was now saying he was having second thoughts. Or so the story went.

This week it’s turned round the other way. In stories that seem to have come from Stevie’s camp the player is reportedly disappointed that after stalling on starting talks, Liverpool came to the table without an offer for an extension to Gerrard’s contract. Added to this is a story that Gerrard and Benitez had a row at Melwood on Saturday.

What’s clear is that there are big differences between the two parties. And it seems that it is down to a number of factors.

In an interview before the Champions League final, Steven Gerrard was asked whether the result in Istanbul would make a difference to his decision about whether to stay at Anfield. He said it would. However you interpret that answer it basically said that even at that stage Gerrard didn’t know himself what he wanted to do. He wanted to be the captain of a successful Liverpool. With a defeat in that game he’d have been captain of an unsuccessful team.  Would he have left if Liverpool had lost? He’d have had plenty of excuses, he’d have given fair warning and he’d have left without too much guilt.

This is all academic though. Liverpool are European Champions. Gerrard lifted the Champions League trophy. Gerrard wants to stay now.

It now seems that Rafael Benitez had given up on keeping Gerrard. Gerrard had given enough signals to Benitez that he was far from happy at the club. Benitez rates the player highly, but knows that without his full commitment he’s not as good a player.

Benitez had to make his plans, start making his initial enquiries for his summer dealings. He had to make these plans without knowing how much money he’d have to spend.

Liverpool won the Champions League, so that increased some of the funds available. However Milan Baros, all set for a move to Valencia, is not now leaving, meaning around £8million has been taken away. It now seems though that for whatever reason Rafael Benitez cannot get the players he’d planned to move for and keep Steven Gerrard. He can’t afford it.

It’s a difficult decision for Benitez to make it this is true. Gerrard has been indecisive all season. Benitez had to decide whether he’d still have Gerrard this season. His knowledge of the Spanish game means he could possibly have found a replacement for Gerrard in Spain, and have money left over for a new striker and a new defender. The manager now has to decide whether he wants to go for free transfers instead (like Bolo Zenden), or to sell Gerrard and buy players for higher fees (like Dirk Kuyt, for £10million).

According to sources close to the goings on at Anfield, Liverpool are extremely short of money. They want to build a new stadium – a long-term investment that would eventually see them make much more money out of every game. It costs money upfront though, and they are struggling to get this money. There’s not enough money for Benitez to fund the sort of changes at the club he feels are needed. Gerard Houllier wasted an extremely large amount of money during his reign at the club, and Benitez won’t get that kind of money – it just isn’t there.

Investment bids have been turned down, and the consultants called in by Liverpool to look at investment options have not come up with anything acceptable to David Moores.

The truth behind the Steven Gerrard stories is basically summed up as follows:

Gerrard wants to stay. Now. He didn’t before.
Benitez wanted Gerrard to stay. Now though he doesn’t – he got tired of waiting for some commitment from Gerrard.
Benitez has to choose between keeping Gerrard or getting £30million to spend on other players.
Liverpool are struggling for money, but David Moores is not willing to lose his controlling interest in the club.

In many ways Steven Gerrard (with the help of SFX) made his bed last summer when he "nearly" went to Chelsea. Liverpool wanted to keep him, and felt they could afford to. The problem is though, without investment, Liverpool can’t afford to keep him. Now it looks increasingly like Gerrard took a gamble and lost.

The stories that will follow in the coming days will be from all sides aiming to make themselves look the innocent party. In fact all sides are partly to blame.

Continue reading Benitez needs Gerrard cash for new players

Agents pushing for Gerrard to leave Anfield

Steven Gerrard is once again all over the back pages of the British press, with the latest stories claiming a training ground bust-up has taken place between the Reds captain and Rafa Benitez.

They say there’s no smoke without fire, and there’s certainly a lot of smoke with variations of the story appearing in most sports sections. The fire is almost certainly going to be coming from SFX, Gerrard’s agents. It seems that it was no coincidence for the stories to be appearing on the day that Liverpool have announced a press conference to unveil Bolo Zenden and possibly Jose Reina.

According to the stories, Gerrard arrived at Melwood on Saturday to train alone, and when he arrived he had a row with Benitez.

The Mirror carries quotes in its story, in which it says Gerrard will be sold for £35million. The quotes are from "a friend of Gerrard", but it’s almost certain that this his agent, who of course would only have given these quotes off the record. The friend allegedly said: "Stevie’s patience has snapped with Benitez and Rick Parry and it’s civil war now. If they had wanted to sort this out, it could have been done in two hours, yet we have got nowhere and Stevie doesn’t know why they’re not prepared to sit down properly."

The interesting part of this quote is "we have got nowhere". The word "we" implies that the one giving the quotes was involved in the negotiations. The friend claims talks have broken down for good: "Now he’s stopped talking and even if Liverpool come back and say they want to re-open negotiations, he will tell them where they can stick it."

The article claims that Gerrard feels the delay in agreeing a deal is down to a lack of money on Liverpool’s part, that they can’t afford his demands, and if not that they just don’t want him.

The Mirror claims that Rafa Benitez "had conversations" with Gerrard on Wednesday and Thursday. Not surprising given that they were training those days. Gerrard went to Jamie Carragher’s wedding on Friday so there was no training, and the paper then claims that Gerrard was at the training ground on Saturday for a "private" session. It was then, the paper alleges, that Rafa and Stevie had their row, "an angry exchange that left the player furious and determined to quit and Benitez complaining that he is being used as a scapegoat to make the midfielder look as if he is being forced out".

In fact the paper then quotes more "friends" – this time of Benitez. They are supposed to have said, "I don’t know what is going on. I’m being accused of orchestrating a campaign to get rid of Stevie but I’ve done nothing at all. I want him to stay." The paper says Rafa feels that he is being set up by SFX, and in particular Struan Marshall. It was Marshall who had talks with Rick Parry on Wednesday and Thursday according to the report – which in some ways contradicts the earlier part of the article that seemed to hint that Gerrard and Benitez were discussing the deal themselves on Wednesday and Thursday. The paper also accuses Rafa of being unhappy with Rick Parry for going on holiday before sorting out the deal with Gerrard, and then offering an unacceptable deal.

Gerrard told the world straight after Liverpool’s European Cup victory that he would stay. Or did he? He actually said, "How could I leave after a night like this?" If SFX get their way he’ll leave by moving to another club for money and more importantly to them, a bigger commission cheque. The Mirror also claims that Gerrard and Rafa are "no longer talking".

Michael Owen looked all set to stay at Anfield last summer, until at the last minute he moved to Real Madrid. Various stories about the sequence of events that resulted in him leaving have been told, but the main one seems to be that when Real came in to sign the player he was given an ultimatum – sign for us or go to them, but no more stalling. SFX were Owen’s agents, and in January of last year they upset Owen when they publically stated that Owen would leave if the club didn’t qualify for the Champions League. Owen refuted those claims, and Liverpool did qualify.

It’s pretty clear that Gerrard’s agents have been talking to the press. The stories that hit the Spanish press last week were probably orchestrated between SFX and Real, a club often accused of conducting transfer business in the press. Even now Real are campaigning to bring Robinho to the club from Santos and are using the press to make their intentions clear.

The sad thing in all of this is that SFX are allowing this to take place. Gerrard must have been prepared to put money after his love of the club if he did change his mind a year ago on a move to Chelsea. Perhaps he’s not has happy under Rafa Benitez as he had hoped. Perhaps he wants a clause in his contract that Liverpool won’t accept. Whatever the truth is though, Liverpool will have made the best offer they feel they can for the player. Gerrard will have requested what he feels he is worth. If these two figures and deals don’t tie-up then somebody needs to compromise. If the two parties can’t agree then why prolong the agony? If the deal is close then it’s time to hurry it along and get it agreed. If the two sides are miles apart and unlikely to agree then it’s much better for all concerned – especially the club and the player – for Liverpool and Gerrard to part company.

Some of the things said in recent weeks seem to have been exaggerated. One example is that Gerrard was meant to have been left fuming that Didi Hamann was given a new deal almost immediately after the European Cup final, whilst Gerrard wasn’t. Hamann was out of contract, Liverpool had to offer him a new deal before he went to another club. Gerrard has still got two years to run on this deal. The other take on the story is that Gerrard wanted to sign before the new season, which starts on July 13th. Actually the new season should have started a month later, so Liverpool should have had that extra time to prepare the deal.

Today’s press conference will no doubt be hijacked by questions over Steven Gerrard. It’s unlikey there’ll be anything new to say on the subject though, with the official stance remaining that Liverpool want Gerrard to stay. If by next Wednesday there’s been no announcement, we could see Steven Gerrard sitting on the bench or even out of the squad for the Champions League qualifier against TNS. As with Michael Owen last season, if Liverpool are considering letting a player move to another club they aren’t likely to let him get cup-tied, which would reduce his value.

It’s time for all sides to agree – either to agree a new deal, or agree that it’s not possible to agree a new deal. Only then will the press leave the story alone. And only then for a short time no doubt.

Continue reading Agents pushing for Gerrard to leave Anfield

Zenden passes medical

Zenden about to join RedsLiverpool have confirmed the imminent capture of Dutch International Boudewijn Zenden. The player has passed a medical and will sign his contract to join the European Champions on Monday.

Zenden’s contract at Middlesborugh expired at the end of June so Liverpool will get the midfielder without having to pay a transfer fee.

Liverpool’s Champions League defence starts with the first qualifying game on July 13th, and the 28-year-old will be eligible for that first game.

Confirming the news on the official Liverpool website, Reds spokesman Ian Cotton said: "Bolo Zenden has passed his medical. We have reached an agreement with the player and expect the contract to be signed on Monday morning. He will then be introduced at a press conference later that afternoon."

Another player who should be on his way to Anfield is Chilean winger Mark Gonzales. Liverpool are in the final stages of talks with his current club Albacete which will see the player arrive at Anfield on a twelve month loan, to be followed by a permananent move should all go well. The player is currently injured with a cruciate knee ligament injury he received in May, hence the caution by Liverpool in starting the deal with a one-year loan.

The two clubs will now be ensuring the terms of the deal are satisfactory to all, ensuring nothing is lost in translation, and Gonzales is desperate for the move to go ahead. He said: "Until everything is signed I don’t want to get too excited, but it’s a dream move. I knew Liverpool were interested in me but after the injury I thought everything had changed."

Gonzales certainly sounds like a player that’s desperate to play for a big team: "To go from being injured at a second division Spanish side to the European champions is like winning the lottery. Negotiations are very advanced and I know if I go there on loan I will make the most of it. I’ll be going there for good."

Despite all of the news on new players that Liverpool are set to sign, the press continue to look for the negatives. Many papers are taking a story that originated in the Spanish press which claimed Steven Gerrard was tempted by a move to Spain and adding their own twist. Various fees and player exchanges are reported, and this will continue until Gerrard signs a new deal. Gerrard was with ex-Red Michael Owen yesterday at the wedding of Jamie Carragher. Also attending were Dietmar Hamann and another ex-Red – Charlton’s Danny Murphy.
Continue reading Zenden passes medical

Rafa moves to bring new youngsters to Anfield

Finally there have been some official announcements about Liverpool signings after a pre-season of much speculation.

First up is a trial for Lincoln’s young centre-back Jack Hobbs. He arrives at Melwood on Monday for a week’s trial. If he impresses Rafa Benitez and the rest of the coaching staff he’ll be offered a deal to become a Liverpool player on a permanent basis.

Hobbs has grown up at Lincoln, joining them at just nine years of age. Arsenal had also been interested in the player, but dropped out of negotiations. Liverpool’s attitude to the signing of the player has impressed Lincoln’s executive director Keith Rowe, who said: "Liverpool made their interest known 10 days ago and have conducted themselves superbly. Jack will spend a week in Liverpool from Monday with Academy coach Frank McParland and we are then expecting to complete the full transfer at the end of next week. We are delighted with the way how quickly things have been agreed with Liverpool."
 
Lincoln’s manager Keith Alexander is pleased for the player and hopes he gets the move to Anfield: "It looks like Jack is going to Liverpool. I don’t think he could be going to a better club. He’s been with us since the age of nine and I believe he has the talent to go all the way to the top. Liverpool will look after him and can offer him some of the best facilities around, so I think it will be a great move for him if everything works out as we hope."

The deal between the two clubs has already been agreed, subject to the trial, and includes a sell-on clause for Lincoln City.

Another move for a new player for Liverpool is underway as the Reds confirmed that they are looking to sign Albacete’s Chilean international Mark Gonzales.

Gonzales, a 20-year-old winger, is currently injured with a cruciate knee ligament injury. The idea for Liverpool is to sign him on a one-year-loan, becoming a permanent deal after that assuming all goes well with the injury. Liverpool’s spokesman Ian Cotton said: "We are in discussions with Albacete with a view to bringing the player to the club on August 1 for a season long loan. The deal is not yet finalised and would be subject to a work permit being granted."

More announcements from Anfield are expected in the coming days, with Jose Reina and Bolo Zenden being the most likely names to sign.

Continue reading Rafa moves to bring new youngsters to Anfield